Health Insurance Survey

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)


    The survey establishes the level of the population with and without private health insurance (PHI), provides a broad indication of the type of cover (hospital - basic or higher, ancillary, both) and related information such as reasons for cover or reasons for no cover, changes to cover, etc.

    A particular strength of this collection relative to data on private health insurance coverage available from industry sources, is its ability to describe levels and changes in levels, for population groups.


    The survey is designed to describe the levels, types and patterns of private health insurance cover, and to enable changes in these elements to be monitored over time.


    The scope of the survey was restricted to all Australian residents living in private dwellings with the following exclusions:

    • members of the permanent defence forces;
    • Certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments.
    • Overseas residents
    • Foreign defence force personnel and their dependents
    • Persons in remote and sparsely settled parts of Australia


    Conceptual framework

    The Health Insurance Survey provides a measure of private health insurance (PHI) coverage throughout the population. The different types of PHI cover comprise:

    • Hospital - insurance which covers the costs (wholly or in part) of accomodation and treatment in hospital.
    • Ancillary - insurance which covers the costs (wholly or in part) of a range of non-hospital services such as physiotherapy, optical and dental treatment.
    • Combination of the above.

    Main outputs

    Health Insurance Survey Australia (ABS Cat No.

    4335.0 )


    ABS standard classifications were used for items describing standard demographic and labour force characteristics.

    Two fundamental survey specific classifications used were:

    Type of private health insurance:

    • Hospital and ancillary
    • Hospital only
    • Ancillary only
    • Type not known/not stated

    Type of contributor unit:

    • Contributor only
    • Contibutor and partner
    • Contributor, partner and dependent child(ren)
    • Contributor and dependent child(ren)

    Other concepts (summary)

    The survey amied to identify selected health actions taken by people in the two weeks prior to interview. Actions covered are:

    • stay in hospital ending in that tweo week period
    • visit to casualty or outpatients at a hospital
    • visit to a day clinic
    • consultation with a doctor, general practitioner or specialist
    • consultation with a dentist
    • consultation with another health professional (OHP). Includes acupuncturists, audiologists, chiropractors, dietitians/nutritionists, herbalists, hypnotherapists, naturopaths, nurses, opiticians/optometrists, osteopaths, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers/welfare officers, speech therapists
    • use of medications including vitamins, minerals, herbal and natural medications
    • other contacts for health treatment, information and advice; includes practitioners not covered in OHP's, health and community centres, clinics, ambulance, counselling and information services, self-help groups, family and friends.

    The survey amied to identify all illness conditions currently experienced by respondents, including long-term conditions. All conditions reported were coded to selected conditions/reasons contained in the ninth revision (1975) of the International Classififcation of Diseases (ICD). Information obtained is as reported' by respondents, and may differ from that obtained by medical diagnosis.

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory
    Part of State Metropolitan
    Part of State Extra-Metropolitan

    Comments and/or Other Regions

    Not applicable


    Frequency comments

    The survey was conducted annually from 1979 to 1984, then each two years until 1992. The last survey in the series was conducted in June 1998. This survey will not be run again in future, as the key topics are planned to be covered in the National Health Survey program.


    The survey was conducted annually from 1979 to 1984, then biennially up to and including 1992, then 1998. Limited information on private health insurance cover was also obtained in the 1989-90 and 1995 National Health Surveys run by the ABS.

    Major breaks to the series occurred in 1984 with the introduction of Medicare, and in 1988 with the redefinition of "contributor unit" as one of the base counting units used in the collection.


    Data availability comments

    Health Insurance Survey, Australia (ABS Cat. No. 4335.0)

    14/09/2004 10:53 AM